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Are you getting the most out of Google™ Drive

posted 6 Nov 2012, 08:52 by Chris Barrow   [ updated 25 Feb 2013, 12:30 ]
The Drive, originally known as Google Docs, was re branded as the Drive earlier this year so I thought it was about time to to see what's available.

Google Drive is not just a cloud storage service, it is a collaboration tool designed to make your life easier. You can store and edit your documents, photos, music, videos, etc. all in one place. It syncs with your smart phone, tablet and your computer, so if you make a change from one device, it will automatically show up on all your devices.

It tracks your changes too, so if you make an edit to the document, you can still look back at all your revisions from the past 30 days. Best of all, it relies heavily on Google search, with image recognition for browsing your photos and some OCR capabilities for sniffing out text in pictures. So if you scan and upload your expense receipts without naming them, Google will index the text in the image allowing you to search for a particular receipt. Now that is cool!

Web Browser Access
All Google documents  and files are stored in the cloud at Google managed data centres, so you can access and manage the content of your drive using a web browser (Google Chrome recommended  on Windows, Apple or Linux PC's, basically anything with a web browser.

Google Drive App
You can also access the drive directly by installing the Drive Application which is available on both Windows and Apple, this installs the Google Drive folder on your computer where you can access files and folders much like any other file or folder. Any changes made to a file are instantly synced with the Google servers
  • File types - You can store files in the native formate where they can be opened by the application that created them, any Google native documents will open in your default web browser.
  • Preferences - Through preferences you can decide if you want to sync all files and folders or just a sub-set, this is useful if you have a large amount of data on the drive and do not want to sync it all down to your computer. The files will always be available if you log on through a web browser.
Smart phones and Tablets
This is where the drive comes into its own, the are Apps for both Android and Apple which allow you access to your drive anywhere where you have a data connection.
The other day I was in a meeting when I got an urgent text asking for an important document, as always I had my phone with me so it was simply a case of opening up the drive App, searching for the document and the email it off.

Not only can you view, print, share and email documents and files you can also edit them with your device.

Offline Access
With any cloud based service you always ask yourself the question, what happens if the internet goes down, how can I continue working. By enabling off-line you're able to view Google documents and spreadsheets even when you don't have an Internet connection. You're also able to edit Google documents offline. It's really handy when you're on an aeroplane or train without wireless Internet!

If you access your files using the web browser Google Chrome, you can enable offline access to view your files. You can also edit Google Documents, though  offline access isn't currently available for every part of your Google Drive. The table below indicates what you're able to view and edit while offline.

My Drivecheckmarkcheckmarkcheckmarkcheckmarkcheckmark
Other Drive filescheckmarkcheckmark

If you are using a smart phone or tablet, you can also mark individual files to be available offline, this is very useful if you think you will not have access to an important document or presentation when visiting a customer.

NOTE: Anyone with access to a computer with offline access enabled will be able to view all of your synced documents and spreadsheets when they open Chrome. To help protect the security of your data, it is strongly advise that you don't allow offline access on public or shared computers. Instead, allow offline access on personal computers where only you have access, and where your access to the computer is password protected

Third Party Apps
Another useful addition to Google Drive is the array of very useful third party apps, these can be accessed in Chrome from your Drive web page through the "Cog" and selecting manage Apps or directly from the Chrome Web Store. Under the collections section you will find a selection of Drive based apps, which integrate directly into Drive and enhance what you can do.

For example, if you want the ability to edit Microsoft Office documents directly within your web browser and Google Drive, try installing "Free Nexus", this replaces the Google Drive document editor with Office (You will need office installed on your computer for this to work). Once this is installed, when you open a MS word document in the web browser the familiar Office editing tools are available. 

There are many other Apps available from image, Video and photo editing tools, Lucid Charts for your diagrams and even Auto Cad. Why not give them a try, many are free.

By Chris Barrow
Aragorn Consulting - Google Apps™ Authorized Reseller